This season certainly has been frustrating for the Chicago Cubs and Cubs’ manager Dale Sveum. This season was meant to be the beginning of the turnaround for the Cubs. While the team certainly wasn’t expected to contend, the team was expected to be much more competitive than the team that loss 101 games during the 2012 season. The 2013 season was meant to be the season when shortstop Starlin Castro and first baseman Anthony Rizzo took their respective places as the cornerstones of the Cubs’ organization. However, in the midst of the Cubs’ struggles to begin the 2013 season, neither Rizzo nor Castro have emerged as cornerstones. That has left Sveum to ponder the idea of demoting both Castro and Rizzo to the minor leagues.
“If people keep playing like that, you have to find options,” Sveum said before a 4-2 loss to the Brewers. “Give people playing time at Triple A to figure this stuff out.” Chicago Tribune
The Cubs have certainly shuffled their roster this season, with the recent waiver claims of infielder Cody Ranson; outfielder Julio Borbon; and pitcher Kameron Loe being the prime examples. The fact of the matter is that the Cubs are trying to find options, in doing so, the team is trying to find production. Both Castro–defensively–and Rizzo–offensively–have contributed to the Cubs’ poor fundamentals this season, but would the Cubs’ consider demoting the two cornerstone pieces to their long-term success?
“The bottom line is you’ve got to perform,” Sveum repeated. “Whether they need more development or you decide all those kind of things … there’s still that accountability. Many, many people throughout the history of the game (have been demoted). It’s a performance-laden occupation. That’s what makes the world go ’round. That’s what makes this country what it is.” Chicago Tribune
Sveum is treading on some thin ice with these comments. The reason being that one of the reasons why former Cubs’ manager Mike Quade was fired was because he hindered the long-term success of the team by constantly calling out young players through the media. While no professional athlete should be coddled, that does not mean that the manager holds the player accountable through the media. Especially when it comes to Castro and Rizzo, who at the age of 23, still have some growing pains to go through in the Major Leagues. It is the job of Sveum and his coaching staff to identify those growing pains and work on ways to make each player more fundamentally sound. Addressing the growing pains with frustration through the media is not the way to handle, and that is way for Sveum to quickly lose control of his team.
There is no question that Castro and Rizzo have struggled this season. While Castro is hitting .301/.320/.466 this season with the Cubs, the shortstop has already made 4 errors in the first month of the season. Meanwhile, Rizzo has struggled offensively as the first baseman is only hitting .210/.310/.532 this season with 6 home runs. What Sveum need not to forget is that the Cubs are still a rebuilding team. Sveum is the caretaker to that rebuild. Meaning there are going to be times when players such as Castro and Rizzo show a lack of fundamentals, however, it is on Sveum to handle those blunders with coaching and practice behind the scenes and not in front of reporters looking for a sound-bit. The dark reality for Sveum is that players like Castro and Rizzo will likely be with the Cubs long after he is no longer the team’s manager. A scenario that could happen sooner rather than later if Sveum continues make public statements contradicting the long-term future of the Cubs.